One of our priorities at Enterprise Minnesota is to help ensure that policymakers and community leaders understand the value of their local manufacturers. They may know what the company makes, how many employees work there, and the names of its leaders. But after we broker a personal tour, they have a much better sense of the sophistication of the business, the reliable and high-quality careers provided within its walls, and its considerable economic impact on the local communities.

Most of the time, they leave absolutely wowed. “I had no idea,” is a common reaction.

Someone then suggested that Enterprise Minnesota should pull the curtain back from our annual State of Manufacturing® (SOM) survey of manufacturing executives, one of our most prized operations. After 14 years of conducting this comprehensive survey, many readers look forward to seeing the results. But you might benefit from knowing what goes into each aspect of the poll — how we develop topics, identify and question participants, analyze the results, publish the findings, and share them with the industry’s many stakeholders around the state.

The center of the SOM universe is pollster Rob Autry, founder of Meeting Street Insights, one of the top polling firms in America. His firm has more than 50 years of combined experience conducting and analyzing polls. They work with us to develop a questionnaire by combining ongoing benchmark questions with new challenges or opportunities that are starting to appear on the manufacturing radar. Rob’s intuitive attention to detail is one reason our poll predicted the impact of Minnesota’s workforce challenges a good three years before we started reading about them in the newspapers. He’s revealed similar insights about the COVID economy, worldwide supply chain issues, cybersecurity, and the developing recession that may be confronting us today.

Rob selects a random list of statistically representative potential participants from databases at Enterprise Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. His team interviews more than 400 manufacturers statewide and then oversamples in each of the six Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions in Greater Minnesota.

Digging into the data, they get a read on how issues are affecting all manufacturers, as well as those of different sizes, locations, and industries. Bob Kill and I use that initial information to conduct focus groups around the state to obtain a more intimate understanding of the issues and how manufacturers are addressing them. While polling tells us what is happening, the focus groups reveal why. From this combination of information we develop analysis for the magazine, website, and live events.

We have placed a high priority on giving a voice to Minnesota manufacturers by publicizing the data to relevant audiences. Bob Kill, for example, frequently testifies about the results to both houses of the state legislature and has even appeared before a committee of the U.S. Senate. He speaks frequently to industry groups and chambers throughout the state.

Each year we host a huge event in Minneapolis where more than 500 people gather to hear Rob describe survey results and to watch as Bob Kill participates on a panel with our consultants and clients as they react to the survey. It’s not lost on us that the event provides an excellent venue for networking. We take that show on the road with regional events in November, December and January, in each of the Initiative Foundation regions.

The combination of quality data and strategic visibility gives the survey an extraordinary shelf life. Our stakeholders include public policymakers at the state and federal levels, business “thought leaders” representing a variety of industries, grant organizations, local and state economic development experts, educators, media, and of course, manufacturers. They rely on this information to make decisions that keep Minnesota manufacturing strong, and we couldn’t be more delighted to provide it.

Featured story in the Winter 2022 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine.

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